By ryan buck
He could have opted for an all-access pass or some field level chair-back, but on September 1, 2007, the most anxious person in colossal Ohio Stadium could barely even see the action taking place on the field from his C-deck bleacher seat.
Garcia Lane, a Youngstown native and former Buckeye captain, watched as his sons, Shaun and Ben, took the field for the opening kickoff of YSU’s first-ever visit to Columbus.
“We had a lot of family there,” Lane said. “I gave the better tickets to my mom. I missed a lot because we were so far up.”
He will never forget the Buckeyes’ kickoff to the visiting Penguins, however.
His older son, Shaun, then a junior at Ohio State, set his sights on Ben, who started on the Penguins’ return team. The brothers were high school standouts at Hubbard before Division I college careers.
“Shaun goes all the way across the field,” their father said with a chuckle. “He blew his assignment just to get a piece of Ben. I don’t think his coach was too happy with him.”
Garcia Lane is not only the patriarch of one of Youngstown’s great football families; the man could play.
Lane starred at the now-closed South High School in 1979 for coach Bob Stoops, uncle of the famed quartet of college coaches.
Before that, he learned the game from his father and the Youngstown Braves at the Volney Rogers fields across from his family’s store, Willis Market. It was a way of life.
“Football in the Mahoning Valley was hard-nosed,” Lane said. “We had all the city schools that were very, very competitive.”
He honed his skills as a fierce tackler while maintaining elite athleticism for Stoops, who brought an experienced coaching staff to South just as Lane arrived.
“Back then, Princeton and Hillman had the two best junior high programs in the city, but South was just not that good. He brought them together. They were fundamentally sound on defense and offense. That got me prepared for college.”
He had to get recruited first.
“We had so much talent,” Lane said.
He contributed for three seasons, but didn’t start until his final one. When college scouts came to see his friend and teammate, Tyrone Ivy, Lane stole the show in his first game at quarterback.
“Everyone was looking at him,” said Lane, who graduated with two other Division I recruits in current Youngstown Christian coach Brian Marrow (Wisconsin) and Willie Green (Arizona State). “Here I am. I scored three touchdowns, two over 80 yards.”
That 1979 South team went 10-0 as Lane was one of the city’s leading rushers, including a five-touchdown game against Ursuline.
He went on to Ohio State, where he started at defensive back and in the return game for three seasons. Coach Earle Bruce named him a captain for the Buckeyes’ Fiesta Bowl-winning squad. That same year, he returned two punts for scores in a win over Purdue on his way to All-Big Ten honors.
Lane played in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs for two seasons, in addition to stints in the USFL and the Canadian Football League.
Upon his retirement from football, he caught on as a truck driver with General Dynamics before he transitioned into his current position with Cottingham Transportation in Columbus.
He also followed his sons’ careers closely, making it to as many games in both Youngstown and Columbus as possible. In 2004, Shaun followed his father to Ohio State, but not before his father imparted some advice.
“He was good at Hubbard, but Ohio State takes the best of the best, period,” Garcia said. “It’s hard. When you get down here, you’re playing against some great athletes.”
Shaun made his name as a special teams ace on kick coverage. In 2008, Shaun’s honor as Ohio State’s Special Teams Player of the Year made the Lane men the only father-son duo to accomplish that feat.
In the same game where his father played his last game as a Buckeye, Shaun saw his career end prematurely and Garcia’s embark on a new challenge as a football father.
Shaun fell injured on a kickoff and, motionless, was rushed to the hospital.
“I’ll never forget,” Lane said, his fears realized when he was told they needed an ambulance to take his son. “I saw him hit the ground.”
Garcia has supported Shaun, who now works for Nationwide Insurance, as he is still recovering from nerve damage in his right arm.